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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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New Bay Bridge Eastern Span

Uploaded: Aug 26, 2013
I do not have occasion to drive on the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge these days, unlike a prior time in my life.

Still, I do use it from time to time, and the risk of rubber-necking, I have tried to understand just what this replacement portion of the bridge would be like.

One can look at this a bunch of ways. I will offer one. I hope other readers provide other thoughts.

My thought is about design.

The cantilever bridge that is coming done is ugly, and reflective of the time it was built, namely in the midst of the 1930's depression, and a time of public works employment. Rosie the Riveter mentality. I don't have the civil engineering background to understand why this approach was taken for the span. It was acceptable for years until the 1989 earthquake, and it has taken this long to replace it.

It always has been ugly from a design standpoint.

The new replacement span has been a boondoggle from a spending standpoint, and some of the shenanigans around some of its construction components raise questions about how much safer it is than what it replaces.

But from a design standpoint, my opinion is that it is a thing of beauty, much more in place with the San Francisco persona than its predecessor.

I just hope it is safe to drive.
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Posted by Ken, a resident of ,
on Aug 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm

"some of its construction components raise questions about how much safer it is than what it replaces."

So, Paul, were all those $$ billion worth it for a prettier bridge, if it does not improve on the safety of Rosie the Riveter?

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Aug 26, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Ken, a resident of ,
on Aug 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm

[Portion removed.]

How long will we be paying off the bonds for this frivolous project, which does not increase safety?

[Portion removed.]

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Not an issue, a resident of ,
on Aug 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Aug 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

I offered up some thoughts about the design of the new span and the existing span, and invited others to provide their thoughts about various aspects of the project, which is a done deal.

Glad I have engendered some discussion!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Aug 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm


Your various topics end up being controversial which may or may not be a good thing as far as you are concerned. I am not sure what you have been asked to do in these community forums, but unfortunately many people seem to think they have to be antiPaul in their responses. Generally they end up being locked and discussion ends.

The last topic to do with MLK's dream speech is a good example of this.

So what is your feeling when discussion comes to a stop. Is that a success or a failure?

As for this topic, I like you rarely have occasion to cross the bridge. Yes, I do think it looks much nicer, but I am not sure that the old one had no design flare. They are very different bridges to meet the same end. The first is a prime example of 1930s design which was very innovative. I feel sure that if the people then could see a picture of the new bridge they would have been not only awestruck, but incredulous that such a design would work. Given a choice, I feel sure that a 1930s man in the street would cross the old bridge feeling a lot more safe with a design that appeared to make sense rather than the "futuristic" design which needs explanation of how it works.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by musical, a resident of ,
on Aug 27, 2013 at 4:33 am

In the interest of discussion -- I don't regard the old cantilever bridge as ugly. It was quite graceful for its time, and the longest cantilever in the country. That 30's mentality produced many enduring masterpieces -- call me provincial for regarding the Golden Gate as the most beautiful bridge ever built. Rosie the Riveter did not arrive until 1942.

While my preference tends toward symmetry, the new span's design is understandable given the limited availability of bedrock. The original replacement proposal looked a lot like the "freeway on stilts" San Mateo or Dumbarton bridges. Besides the aesthetic objections, that design couldn't provide the necessary shipping channel width. A traditional suspension bridge would require a cable anchorage like that hulking mass centered under the western span but resting on silt, so we're back to cantilever or this more interesting "self-anchored" suspension bridge, though most the overall bridge length is still vanilla skyway.

Shanghai delivered. Sad commentary that so little of it could be fabricated in the US these days with the exception of the light fixtures and some questionable bolts. I believe that the new bridge is as safe or more so than any other in the area, and I'd rather be on it than in the BART tube during the next big one.

Bikes and pedestrians won't be able to reach Yerba Buena Island until at least 2015, maybe San Francisco in my lifetime.

On average the Bay Bridge toll has been doubling every ten years since the 80's, but still less than half the Verrazano Narrows'. And speaking of New York, woe to anyone suggesting a replacement for the marvelous Brooklyn Bridge.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Aug 27, 2013 at 6:51 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.


My getting dissed comes with the territory. I generally find it amusing, I comment now and again that my observations are not about me, and in an environment such as this, I have to deal with the pot shot questions and trolls. It is up to the PA Online folks to decide the rules of engagement.

Back to the Bridge: there are some good web sites showing how the new bridge looks, juxtaposed to the predecessor. I am not of the opinion that the old bridge did not serve its role for the most part. I am of the opinion that its replacement is an improvement.

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